Issues of NA hospital administration should not be prejudged
Stabroek News
December 13, 2001

Dear Editor,

Last week an American bomb strayed and injured American servicemen and killed three. It was instantaneous news. At no time, however, have American politicians come out to vilify the military establishment or the pilots of the unfortunate B52 Bomber. One can however rest assured that the American military establishment is engaged in the most serious investigation of this unfortunate incident and the findings will later be known so that the mistake will not be repeated. This however is a mature society.

In Guyana a patient dies in a government hospital and all and sundry are rushing to prejudge the factors responsible for the hospital responding in the way it did. The media, especially this newspaper, have been less than thorough in the way the matter has been reported on. They have sought to virtually subvert due process by aligning themselves with the statements of the Minister. There have thus far been two statements trying to deal in a balanced way with this issue: A page 2 article in the Sunday Chronicle December 2nd and the Sunday December 9th editorial of this newspaper. Clearly the Monday Dec l0 editorial of this newspaper wants a continued newspaper trial of the matter. It has asked the hospital officials to respond to its version of the issue. This is in spite of the fact that one public official has gotten into hot water for his views on the issue.

This course flies in the face of the fact that the Government and Ministry of Health have indicated that an official investigation is to take place as early as this week. The newspapers and the rest of the media should now not try to exert undue influence on the outcome of the investigation by advocating for more press trial.

The newspaper should be posing the question as to how the obvious holes in the hospital's ability to provide continuous service such as the shortage of junior doctors will be addressed in the medium and longer term. I would like to ask why with a medical school of ten years vintage, we are still so short of junior doctors and have to rely on Cuba and Nigeria to fulfil our manpower requirements. Who is responsible for this state of affairs?

At least we know the Minister's position. He knew the state of things at the hospital but was not motivated to address them until his friend's son died in circumstances in which the employees could easily be made stool pigeons for the Berbice vendetta culture and the systemic deficiencies of the health system.

As an average citizen let us at least for the sake of this case try to restore the "why did this happen?" of a mature culture and stop asking, "who done it?" I am certain that the employees of the New Amsterdam hospital want to be as much a part of the "Minister's team" as his staff in other more beloved institutions. Let us try to remember that it takes a special breed to tolerate blood and disease. They deserve our respect and compassion as much as bereaved families.

Yours faithfully,

Roderick Benjamin

Editor's note

The main point of concern in the December 10th editorial was that it took two hours for the general surgeon to arrive and take charge of the patient's treatment. Whether that is considered alignment with the minister's statement is besides the point. All members of the public should be worried by such an occurrence.

Second, the official investigation into the death of Mr Kassim should not preclude the hospital's administration from explaining what transpired. It is one of the responsibilities of the hospital's administration whether or not an official enquiry is held. Up to the point that the enquiry was ordered there was no indication that the administration was prepared to make a statement. If an enquiry was not ordered are we to assume that there would have been no response from the administration to this incident?

It must also be noted that this particular hospital has been at the centre of previous allegations of delinquent conduct by doctors.